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Penn Admissions Blog

Changes to Our Recommendation Requirements, Explained!
Dean Whitney Soule | September 22, 2021

Good news! The admissions team at the University of Pennsylvania wants to get to know the real you, and we’ve just updated our recommendation requirements to make it even easier for you to choose recommenders who know you well.

A couple of things are the same: we still require three recommendations, including one from your school counselor or college counseling office and one from a teacher.

One thing is new: the third recommendation can be from any adult you choose, someone who knows you well enough to comment on how you interact with others, or manage responsibility, or organize, or lead, or learn, or demonstrate whatever characteristics you think we need to know about you. You may choose another teacher for this third recommendation, or you might choose someone who supervises you in a job, or has coached you on a team, or has collaborated with you, or has often been with you when you’ve had to make decisions or serve as a leader in some way.

We hope that the flexibility in choosing a third recommender gives you a chance to introduce yourself to us in a way that feels great to you.

If you are wondering whether there is a strategic way to use this third recommendation, there is! A good strategy is to ask yourself if the recommenders you are choosing are likely to offer insights and examples about qualities you like in yourself. For some of you, there might be two teachers who have knowledgeable relationships with you and could offer us a good array of information, so you might choose to use another teacher as your third recommender. For some of you, the combination of a teacher and someone who is not a teacher is the best way to round out the information, so you might go for a choosing someone who has not taught you in an academic setting as your third recommender. Both are good strategies.

To recap, here are your options to complete the recommendation requirements in the application:

1. School Counselor/College Counselor letter of recommendation

2. Teacher recommendation

3. Other/Non-teacher recommendation


1. School Counselor/College Counselor letter of recommendation

2. Teacher letter of recommendation

3. Teacher letter of recommendation

For the individual student reading about this change, I want to be clear that the choice of who to select as recommenders remains entirely your own.

If you are reading this as an adult who is supporting or advising a student in the college process, please encourage your student to think broadly about the trusted adults in their lives who could write with insight and examples.

In Penn Admissions, we are really looking forward to reading your application and the thoughts and comments from the adults you choose to write on your behalf.

About the author
Dean Whitney Soule

I’ve worked in college admissions for over 30 years, and I focus on building bridges between what ‘has been’ and what ‘can be’ so that the whole process can become less complicated yet still effective for students to find their way into college.  I especially love meeting new students when they arrive each year because it’s so fun to match them to the stories and information that we know from their applications!

I love coffee, running, snacking all day, and laughing.  I also adore dogs.  I spend a lot of time with my nutty English Bulldog, Stella, and I can be very easily distracted by silly dog memes. My favorite location on Penn's campus is the entire stretch of Locust Walk, and I love authentic Philly cheesesteaks. You can reach me at

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